A career officer who has risen to the rank of deputy chief-of-staff of the armed forces, Shawkat married the president’s sister, Bushra Assad, in 1995. Although some analysts speculate that he was demoted as head of military intelligence following the assassination of Hizballah military commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008, others contend he remains a key presidential ally. Former Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam described Shawkat as a “smart, cultivated, and courageous officer with great ambitions,” according to the BBC. He is considered a leading architect of Damascus’ brutal crackdown on dissent.
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